Javier Gomez was trying to play "Cielto Lindo," a traditional Mexican song, on his newly bought used piano.
"My children have been taking lessons at school," Gomez said, "so I bought the piano for them to practice on. I'd like them to learn some mariachi-type music."
Born in Durango, Mexico, Gomez, who turned 40 last month, believes that learning about and participating in the traditions of one's culture are not luxuries; they are essential parts of a person's total growth. "For my children this is one thing they have no choice in. It's like eating--they must do it."
All three children were given Aztec names. Both of his daughters, Xochiquetzaltzin, 17, and Tonantzin, 13, and his son, Anahuac, 14, dance for the Ballet Folklorica Regional, a dance company Gomez has headed for seven years. And Xochiquetzaltzin is currently acting in the bilingual play "Trucha Raza la Revencha" or "Look Out People, the Revenge Is Coming." The play was written and directed by Gomez, who organized the theater group Teatro Inlakech more than 14 years ago.
The play was first staged a little over a decade ago. It examines the phenomenon of youth gangs and killings that took place in the county in 1979.
Gomez decided to restage "Trucha Raza la Revencha" because of the new surge of gangs forming in the county. According to his research, 13 new gangs have appeared in just the last year.
"These kids are doing the usual things that kids have been doing for generations," he said. "If two kids from two groups get into a fight all their friends gather around and watch. That's been going on for years. But what's changed is that now it's called gang violence."
That's where Javier Gomez comes in. He runs the theater and dance groups for young Chicanos as an alternative to joining gangs. It gives the young people something to do. Plus it teaches them about their culture.
"The home, the family; that is what's important," Gomez said. "When there's a breakdown in the family, there's a breakdown in society."
Gomez's own home is filled with mementos of his family and heritage.
In the hallway is a wooden wall hanging; a family tree Gomez created. "I visited my hometown, Ramon Corona, a few years ago to research my family history," said Gomez, who moved to the United States when he was 5. "While there I found that my grandfather had a deep respect for his heritage."
Throughout the house are various awards. Gomez isn't one to point them out. He just received Oxnard's performing arts award. Last year he was given the Oxnard Jaycees "Young Man of the Year Award." And he was chosen as the 1989-90 "Teacher of the Year" at Haydock Intermediate School, and the bilingual "Teacher of the Year" for the district.
Before beginning his teaching career, Gomez majored in Chicano studies at Cal State Northridge. While there, he learned one theory of the origins of the word Chicano.
In Nahuatl, the Aztec language, 'Mexicano' breaks down into three words. Me means middle, xic is navel and ano is onto, he explained. "Meaning that a Mexican is born on the land located on top of the navel, or center, between the two American continents. But when they move, they are no longer in the middle, so the 'Me' is dropped off, leaving 'xicano,' which was eventually pronounced 'Chicano.'
"So when people born in Mexico leave their homeland, they will always remain connected to it, dangling from an umbilical cord from the navel."
* THE DETAILS: "Trucha Raza la Revancha" will be performed tomorrow and Saturday nights, 8 p.m., at Haydock Intermediate School's auditorium, 647 West Hill St. General admission is $5 or $12 per family. Tickets are available at Haydock or at Oxnard College's student services window.
The bilingual play, staged by Oxnard College's Theater Department, was written and directed by Javier Gomez.